It was in 1855, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition in Paris, that Napoleon III requested the establishment of a wine classification for the Bordeaux crus. This classification was established according to criteria based on the reputation of the wines as well as the prices of the transactions carried out during the previous century, notably through the intermediary of brokers who referred to the "first," "second," "third," "fourth" and "fifth" classified wines.
For red wines, the Official Classification of 1855 includes 60 Médoc crus and 1 Pessac-Léognan crus. Only 5 are recognised as Premier Cru Classé. In Pauillac, there is Château Lafite-Rothschild, qualified as "Premier des Premiers" and Château Latour. Château Margaux, in Margaux, as well as Château Haut-Brion in Pessac-Léognan are also in the list of Premiers.
For sweet white wines, the classification includes 27 estates spread across the Sauternes and Barsac appellations. The prestigious Château d'Yquem is the only estate to be named Premier Cru Supérieur. There are then 11 Premier Crus.
Since its establishment, the Official Classification of 1855 has only been modified once. In 1973, under the direction of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Château Mouton-Rothschild, in Pauillac, was promoted from the rank of 2nd Grand Cru Classé to that of Premier Grand Cru Classé. This classification enjoys a prestige unequalled in the world and these 5 Premier Grand Cru Classés embody the excellence of the great wines of Bordeaux.